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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cut your cravings

 A small study by researchers at the University of Oregon found that mindfulness meditation may help smokers cut back.

The study involved only five people, so the results aren't statistically significant. But a comparison group that was taught "to relax" showed no reduction.

So should smokers meditate if they want to smoke less?

"Sure, why not?" said study co-author Michael Posner, professor emeritus at the University of Oregon's department of psychology. "[Still], I can't say that all forms of meditation will produce these affects. It's likely that it depends on the brain state that the person is in, and there may be other ways to get into it."
The study took 60 people -- 27 cigarette smokers and 33 nonsmokers with an average age of 21 -- and split them into two groups; each group went through five hours of training over two weeks in either mindfulness meditation or relaxation.

After the two weeks, the researchers gave breath tests to the smokers to see how much they'd been smoking. There was no change for those who learned to relax, but the measurement fell by 60 percent in those who learned how to meditate.  Five smokers talked to researchers four weeks later and said they were still smoking less.

Posner speculated that the reduction in stress and changes in the brain found in meditators in other studies could be at work. And while the study isn't proof, he noted, there's no reason not to give meditation a try. Unlike drugs, it doesn't have any major side effects.And the cost is minimal -- how-to videos are available online and classes are offered many places (such as 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays at Samadhi Yoga Studio in Manchester, Conn., which I teach.)